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Under siege

The attack in Lahore brought back memories of my time in Pakistan during the 2004 tour, recollects Aakash Chopra.

cricket Updated: Mar 08, 2009 00:50 IST
Aakash Chopra

The attack in Lahore brought back memories of my time in Pakistan during the 2004 tour.

The security blanket around us was unprecedented. Our team bus was part of a convoy that had a fire brigade, an ambulance, helicopter surveillance and police vehicles.

The roads were blocked and it was virtually a traffic-free zone when we moved. We were briefed on the security protocol and were not supposed to leave the hotel without informing security personnel. They would accompany us everywhere but only after they figured it was safe for us to do so. Otherwise, we stayed put.

An armed guard always sat on the bus during our under-19 tour to Sri Lanka over 10 years ago because of the heightened threat from the LTTE. If someone had to get off the bus, the guard would first decide if it was safe to stop the bus there, then get down himself to assess the situation, before letting anyone else get off. But still, it wasn't anywhere near the kind of security arrangements we saw in Pakistan in 2004.

Then there was Guyana. This time, restrictions were imposed not for terrorism but for crime. We were told people got killed for even $10 so it was advisable to hide gold chains, mobiles and watches in public.

Yet despite this all, we never felt threatened. The thought we could actually be targets never crossed my mind, so much so that a few mates and I played hookey and went shopping in Pakistan without telling anyone. We were duly served notice thereafter.

The Delhi blasts came and went and somehow life went on. But the events of 26/11 changed it all. For the first time, I thought, ‘this could happen to me, my family, those I love’. I still go to movies, malls and markets but to say I’m not concerned would be untrue.

The damage in the attack on the Sri Lankan team was limited because the driver got going. But I wondered about the horrific consequences if it had been stuck.

Last summer, my IPL team, the Kolkata Knight Riders, took about an hour to get from our Delhi hotel to the Kotla, our bus moving at a snail's pace because of the massive traffic jam. In Kolkata, we were always provided a traffic free zone through which the bus whizzed by as part of a small convoy. It wasn't always so elsewhere.

I expect things to be different now. In another world, things like jams wouldn't matter. Now they do. Life and cricket's landscape have irrevocably changed in the year gone by.